Strength to Carry On
Last updated: November 2019
On October 19, 2017 at the age of 36, I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and life as I knew it was changed forever. I have non-small cell lung cancer -- adenocarcinoma of the lung with over 100 nodules spread across both lungs and inoperable.
It was an incidental finding due to a completely unrelated issue. I didn’t have any symptoms and still do not. A CT was ordered of my abdomen and that scan showed the lower portion of my lungs for which nodules were notated.
My life was ripped away from me
On diagnosis day, I was by myself and I literally fell apart -- I walked out of there with what felt like cinder blocks on my feet for shoes. I was devastated. I felt like my life, as I knew it was over because life hopes for my career and motherhood were ripped out from under me. I was angry. I tried to figure it out. What did I do? Was I being punished for something? How is this even possible? I was never a smoker and there’s no one in my family with any kind of cancer. What will happen? Why fight if I am just going to die anyway? Dying and the fear of dying was very loud in my ear. It wasn’t fair that my parents would have to bury their only child. I would have to leave my husband and he would have to start over -- we had only been married a year and a half at the time. The opportunity for him to be a dad was ripped from him now.
I decided that the only way to combat these feelings with the help of the Lord was to LIVE each day with intent. I couldn’t sit around and wait to die. I was going to enjoy each day, praise God for every single breath that he gave me because I finally realized what a gift this life was -- I wasn’t owed another breath. Sitting around and just taking up space and merely existing was OVER. The Almighty God could have taken me immediately with no warning. I could have never had the opportunity to fight this disease. But, he spared me, he handed me the strength to keep going and continue to wake me up every day.
“Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”
If you would have told me 5 years ago, that I would be in a battle of my life and I would be at peace over it, I would have laughed. There is absolutely no way that I could keep going day after day on good days and bad without the help of God. He’s proven so much to me already. The journey has been good if a cancer journey could be good and blessed. I’ve beaten the odds already.
God has gone before me every step of the way. He allowed me to find out about this, the cancer was only contained in my lungs -- it could have been all over my body because my doctor said there’s no telling how long those cells had been growing and mutating in my body. My oral medication was approved just one month prior to my diagnosis by the FDA as first-line therapy. My lab work is always good, my scans to date show that 100 plus nodules in my lungs are “barely perceptible”, and side effects are minimum. God has been with me every step of the way. The fourth stanza says: “Precious Jesus, Savior Friend -- Thou art with me til the end”. I trust his plan over my life more so that my own plan over my life. I can’t do it on my own -- I’ve tried to swallow this without the Lord and I simply can’t. When I call on Jesus, he meets me -- no matter what.
Experiencing God in a fresh new way
I’ve never felt more loved in my entire life by people. I grew up in a wonderful, loving home. He’s put people in my path to love on me and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s merely the love of God shining through them. He puts strangers in my path to say that they are praying for me. He comforts me when I am anxious and afraid. He’s there with me no matter what and I can feel it. I know that God didn’t give me cancer, but he’s using it for his glory. I have found a renewed strength that can only come from him.
Living my best life with an incurable disease
Without cancer, I would quite possibly never have experienced the perspective shift that I have today. I realize that I am not owed another breath on this earth, but God created me and breathed life into my lungs 38 years ago and he didn’t do it for nothing. He has a plan for my life even in the storm. He has me still here -- 24 months later. There’s a purpose for every day that he spares all of us. It’s not cliché or something inspirational on a billboard -- beauty really does come from ashes. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will be healed either on this side of heaven or the other. I don’t know what’s ahead for me, but one of the verses that I lean in too often is Ephesians 3:20 -- “ Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine” When I am struggling, I hear him tell me “you were made for more”. I’ve learned it’s okay to have a moment of grief. Grief of your own life is beyond difficult. He’s given me more than I could have ever asked for or imagined with the people in my corner, relationships, the opportunity to connect with so many walking a similar journey, the real love, grace and peace of God.
My strength comes from my faith
All I had to do is say four words “Lord...I...need...you." There’s no way I would have the peace that I have today without the presence of the Almighty God in my life. I am unworthy of the things he has blessed me with. He sees in us what we can’t see in ourselves. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done, how we’ve acted -- his mercy is new and his grace is sufficient.
I think of the times as a little girl when my daddy would come home from work. I would RUNNNNN to him as he was coming in the door. I would run as fast I could and I would reach up to him and he would scoop me up. We did this day after day. I knew that he wouldn’t step out of the way; I knew he wouldn’t shun me and just stand there. I knew he wouldn’t say no to me. The same goes for our heavenly father. He will scoop us up into his loving arms and will never let us go. No matter what you are facing big or small -- if it matters to you, it matters to the master. He will give us the strength to walk through it. As the last verse of the chorus in that old hymn "Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus" it says -- O for grace to trust him more!
What healthy habits do you use to improve the quality of your life?